Saturday, January 21, 2023

ULTIMATE TIRAMISÙ

Tiramisù roughly translated means "pick me up" or "lift me up". It is a traditional dessert from Italy made with espresso, mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, Savoiardi (ladyfingers), and a custard called zabaglione. Every Italian mamma has her own recipe. I was fortunate enough to enjoy one made by my friend Giuseppina Cappiello in Positano.




Espresso Syrup
8 oz brewed espresso, or 2 T instant espresso powder dissolved in 8 oz boiling water
2 T marsala wine 

Zabaglione

4 large egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
2 T marsala wine 

2 cups mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

24 Savoiardi Ladyfingers 

Cocoa powder, for dusting
Chocolate shavings, for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix together the espresso and marsala and let 
cool.

Make a double boiler by placing a heat-resistant bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water.

Do not let the bowl touch the simmering water.
Beat egg yolks and sugar in the double boiler using a whisk or a hand-held electric mixer until tripled in volume, about 6-7 minutes.
Carefully remove bowl from heat and place on a tea towel.
Whisk in the marsala wine and mascarpone until combined.

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.


Gently fold the mascarpone mixture into the whipped cream until well combined.
Spread a thin but even layer of mascarpone mixture on bottom of a 8 by 8-inch pan.

Quickly dip half of the ladyfingers into the coffee mixture.

Place the ladyfingers on top of the mascarpone mixture. 
You will have to cut some to completely fill the pan, but don't crowd them.
12 fit into an 8-inch square pan perfectly with some cut up.
Spread half of the mascarpone filling on top.
Dip the rest of the ladyfingers in coffee and arrange over the filling.
Spread the remaining mascarpone filling on top.
Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

Let tiramisu stand a room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

Dust with cocoa and garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired.

Serves 9






Thursday, January 12, 2023

CASA LASAGNE BOLOGNESE AL FORNO

I use a combination of Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in this lasagne. Asiago is similar to Parmigiano because it has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor. The Ragù is enough for two lasagne or enough for another meal or two with pasta. I start out making the Ragù one to three days before I assemble the lasagne. Many times, I freeze the unbaked lasagne to have another evening. Just remember to bring it out to defrost before baking. This style of lasagne is also known as Tuscan Lasagne.  You can also substitute Pecorino Romano for the Asiago. or just use all Parmigiano.  It is very hard to find ground veal in the super markets these days, so I don't use it anymore.



Ragù
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, diced
½ lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 (12-oz) can tomato paste

4 T unsalted butter

2 cups whole milk
2 t dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
¼ t nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes (optional)

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic 
until fairly fine; like a minced soffritto.

In a Dutch oven, add the 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook the soffritto over medium heat 
for 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a very large bowl and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven over medium heat, add the rest of the oil and cook the pancetta until golden.
Add half of the ground beef and brown until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
As the meat cooks, break up any chunks with a wooden spoon into small pieces. 
Spoon into the large bowl with the soffritto
Repeat with the rest of the beef, then spoon into the bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Repeat with the pork and brown; leaving in the pan.
Return the browned beef and vegetables to the pot.
Add the wine, stirring up browned bits on the bottom of the pan. 
Add the chicken stock, water, and tomato paste; mix in well.
Simmer very gently, partially covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the butter and rest of the ingredients and simmer another 15 minutes.


Besciamella (Béchamel)

6 T unsalted butter
6 T all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 ½ t sea salt
½ t grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until foaming; add flour and cook, 
whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Do not brown.
Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil, while whisking constantly. Add salt and nutmeg, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and
simmer 2 minutes, until it thickens slightly.
Turn off heat and set aside.

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
Mix the above cheese together in a bowl.

1 lb fresh lasagne sheets


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.


Spread a layer of ragù in the bottom of a lasagna pan. 

Cover with a sheet or two of pasta, a layer of besciamella, a layer of grated mixed Parmigiano and Asiago, and a layer of ragù.
Repeat 3 more times, ending with a layer of besciamella.

Sprinkle the last of the grated cheeses over the top.


Cover loosely with parchment-lined aluminum foil or spray your inside of the foil with oil and bake in the oven for 1 hour. 
Remove foil, add a little more cheese, and continue to bake another 15 minutes
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 to 12 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 6 to 8











Thursday, December 8, 2022

EGGS IN PURGATORY

Here is another classic Italian-American breakfast...eggs in tomato sauce with grated cheese and grilled Italian bread. You can use any good-quality marinara sauce from your grocery store or use my Casa Marinara Sauce (see recipe, page 64 in my cookbook) or Casa Tomato Sauce (see recipe, page 65 in my cookbook). Uova in Purgatorio.




1 cup good-quality prepared marinara or tomato sauce 
2 large eggs, preferably free-range
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.


Spoon a little sauce into two small ovenproof dishes or skillets. 

Break eggs into two small bowls.

Make a slight clearing in the center of the sauce by scraping with a spoon.
Carefully slide the eggs into the sauce and spoon more sauce around the eggs, but not on top.
 


Season to taste with salt and pepper and grated Parmigiano cheese.


Place dishes or skillets on a baking sheet. 

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until eggs are set and yolks are still soft.

Serve with crusty grilled Italian bread and additional grated Parmigiano cheese.
Serves 2


Note: You can make the recipe using two eggs for each serving—just use larger baking dishes.

 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

ITALIAN MERINGUE COOKIES

These Italian Christmas cookies do not contain butter, flour, or egg yolks and are another Christmas family favorite. They are so easy to make and totally delicious. You can also replace the vanilla extract with almond extract and replace the pecans for almonds. Save your yolks covered in the refrigerator for another recipe.


Lee's Kitchen Tips:

Make sure your mixing bowl is impeccably clean or the eggs whites will not form into stiff peaks.


5 large egg whites, room temperature
¼ t cream of tartar, optional
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 t pure vanilla extract
1½ cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. 
Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.
Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Beat in vanilla extract. 
Remove bowl from mixer and mix in nuts with a spoon.

Drop by a rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets lightly sprayed with cooking oil or line with parchment paper.
Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off oven and let meringues stay in the oven for 1 hour, or until completely cooled.

Store in an airtight container.

Makes 5 to 6 dozen.






ITALIAN SNOWBALL COOKIES

My mother-in-law gave me this recipe. I make them every Christmas. My husband, son, and daughter would be very disappointed if I didn't make them every year.



1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 t pure vanilla extract
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 ½ level cups all-purpose flour
¼ t salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Confectioners’ sugar for coating cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until fluffy. 
Add vanilla and sugar and beat to combine. 
Add flour and salt and continue to beat.
Mix in pecans with a spoon.
Form into small balls and place on two cookie sheets.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.

Let cool and roll in additional confectioners' sugar. You can also pour confectioners' sugar into a paper bag and gently toss cookies until well coated.

Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 5 dozen.


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

SPAHETTI ALLA CARBONARA

I prefer spaghetti carbonara made with pancetta. If you are a purist, make it with guanciale (pork cheeks).  If you don't have pancetta, go ahead and make it with bacon.  Authentic spaghetti alla carbonara does not contain cream.  The creaminess comes from the eggs and cheese. Grate the cheeses, slice the shallots and garlic first and set them aside on a cutting board. This was my son, Brandon’s favorite.  We lived near an Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C. and he always ordered this when we ate there.  Why go to a restaurant for this when you can make it to perfection at home?




6 oz pancetta or guanciale, diced
2 T olive oil or avocado oil
2 T unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ cup dry white wine

1 lb spaghetti
2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 t red pepper flakes
1 T chopped fresh basil
Thinly shaved Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese, for garnish

In a large skillet that is big enough to hold the cooked pasta, cook the pancetta or guanciale until crisp.
Pour out any excess fat and add the olive oil and butter; sauté the shallots for about 2 minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up the flavorful brown particles. 
Turn off the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook 7 to 8 minutes, until al dente. 
Drain the spaghetti, but save 1 cup of the pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, put the eggs and yolks into a mixing bowl. 
Add half of the grated cheeses and season to taste with black pepper and red pepper flakes. Whisk until well combined. 
Return the skillet with bacon mixture to low heat. 
Add the hot drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for a couple of minutes to incorporate.

Remove the skillet from the burner and pour the egg-cheese mixture onto the pasta, tossing quickly and thoroughly, 
which will gently cook the eggs using the heat of the pasta.
Return the skillet to low heat and toss another minute.
Add some of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce.
Add the chopped basil, and garnish with some shaved cheese and serve.

Serves 4

Monday, September 26, 2022

SPAGHETTI WITH TOMATOES, OLIVES, & CAPERS

I have been making this pasta recipe for years. This dish comes together in less than 30 minutes, making it a quick and inexpensive weeknight meal.
Have everything cut up on a cutting board first. Then, you just slide them into your pan!
There are two items in this recipe that are optional, white wine and sun-dried tomatoes. Feel free to omit them and your dinner will be equally delicious.  
Buon Appetito!



½ lb spaghetti or pasta of your choice
2 T olive oil
½ t red pepper flakes
½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
½ pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
¼ cup green olives, cut in half
¼ cup Italian or Kalamata olives, cut in half
¼ cup capers, drained
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, optional
½ cup dry white wine, optional
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 T chopped fresh basil
½ cup pasta cooking water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cook spaghetti for about 6 to 7 minutes, just before al dente.
Save ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet that will hold the pasta sauce and pasta, sauté red pepper flakes, and onion in oil for 5 to 6 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté a couple more minutes.
Add tomatoes along with olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, and wine.    Cook 2 more minutes. 
Add pasta and cook another minute.
Add parsley, basil and pasta water, and heat through.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss to combine.
Drizzle on a little extra-virgin olive oil and mix in.

Top with grated Parmigiano cheese and serve.

Serves 2 to 3